Like many of you, my eyes have riveted on stories about hurricanes Irma, Jose, Katia, and Maria, which have dismantled the lives of thousands across the Caribbean. Added to these are the earthquakes in Mexico, the pummelling by Hurricane Harvey, and wildfires which have torched the western portion of the USA.
When a natural disaster hits, it leaves many in sudden, abject poverty. It destroys homes and takes away lives. It leaves many stranded without basic resources such as clean, drinkable water.
Having worked for 5½ years in Africa for an aid organization, I’ve had a glimpse of what poverty means. The hurricanes, however, also opened my eyes to another kind of poverty.
Victims of natural disasters are poor because they have been robbed of something more than their homes and basic facilities. Apart from losing their material possessions and essential resources, they no longer have the sense of security that they can survive the next hit. They live in fear of the next storm, and have nowhere they can shelter safely. They can’t even turn to their friends and neighbours, who are just as badly hit.
I caught a tiny glimpse of how it must feel to lose things that are important to you when I was robbed. During our tenure in Uganda, the thieves ran away with so much more than my purse and electronics. They temporarily extracted my peace of mind; my sense of trust; a slice of my children’s innocence and my husband’s sense of being able to protect his family.
This helps us better understand our role when we step in to assist victims of natural disasters. Even if we were able to wave a magic wand and restore all of their possessions, there would still exist a poverty untouched.
This forms the backbone of my prayers for those hit by natural disasters. I pray that God would restore their sense of peace, materially and otherwise.
Victims of natural disasters: We remember you, and we’re on our knees. Readers: Will you pray with us for the following?
Like the disciples in a floundering, water-logged boat, our eyes are so often glued to the turbulent waves rather than their Master.
Let them repeatedly hand all their anxiety and fear to You. As they trust You, guard their hearts in Your peace (Philippians 4:8). Let Your peace be their anchors amid any circumstances, no matter how deep the raging waters are.
When the physical stores that we’ve relied on are suddenly gone in an instant, it can be terrifying to have no resources in sight.
Please care for these victims’ physical needs and provide them their daily bread. Let them not worry about what they’ll eat or drink or wear, but trust that You see them and care deeply for them (Matthew 6:26). Let them seek You, and lack no good thing (Psalm 34:10). In times of their deep need, give them the strength to endure anything (Philippians 4:13).
There are so many decisions to be made after a natural disaster strikes. Where should reconstruction begin? What are the most important needs? What issues must be addressed in the meantime? Where are safe and trustworthy places to go for help?
Help victims and aid workers to move forward, not in impulsive fear, but to operate with Your peace, trusting in Your care and constancy. You led nomadic Israelites with a fire and a cloud. Help these victims seek Your wisdom for their next step in their recovery (James 1:5-6).
It can be hardest to trust You when we walk through overwhelming grief and loss. Show each person the tender, specific care You have for them, and that You remember every single one of them.
Let them trust You even when You take away (Job 1:21). Help them see that any disaster, any evil that they run into, is still on Your leash and that You are still in control of their situation. Help us, Good Father, to trust You when we can’t see.
5. Care and hospitality
Father, You have not abandoned them for even a second! Let them see You in every open door, every glass of water, every kind smile, and every gentle grasp. Provide love for them through friends, family, and strangers. Go before these victims of tragedy, paving their way in graciousness.
Motivate Your people to love generously, as an act of love to You (Matthew 25:34-40). Open our own hearts towards them in sacrificial generosity and make us our brother’s keeper—even if it’s a brother we’ve never met.
Restore the happiness and necessities taken by these disasters (Joel 2:24-26), be it homes, vehicles, irreplaceable mementos, or clothing, and give them a peace of mind.
Lord, be their hiding place and refuge, a constant presence and help in trouble. Let them know that You are personally and intimately involved in their lives, and reassure them that You are always with them (Psalm 46:1). We beg You to spare them any more calamity—whether it is concurrent diseases or recurring natural disasters—and show us Your undeserved favour. We rely on You, Lord!